Ohio Gov. Kasich to back Barbour for president

Haley Barbour can count on backing from fellow Republican governor John Kasich of Ohio in his 2012 presidential campaign.

Kasich’s support is a tangible benefit of the Mississippi governor’s leadership of the Republican Governors Assn. Under Barbour, the RGA spent $50 million last year in 10 states it described as keys to the 2012 presidential election, flipping control from Democrat to Republican in seven, including Ohio.

“I will be for Haley if he runs because he’s been so helpful to me,” Kasich said in an interview at his Capitol office in Columbus. Barbour has stepped up his pre-presidential activity in recent weeks, including repeated visits to early-voting states.

Ohio’s presidential primary is currently part of an early-March round that could prove influential if the GOP race extends beyond Florida. Four years ago, Ohio kept Hillary Clinton’s candidacy alive and helped prolong the Democratic contest by several months. Clinton defeated Barack Obama in the state with aggressive help from then-Gov. Ted Strickland, the Democrat Kasich unseated last fall.

Kasich, who made a brief run for the Republican presidential nomination a dozen years ago, said he would “do what I can” to keep Obama from gaining a second term in the White House.

He said recent polls showing Donald Trump near the top of the 2012 Republican field are a function of America’s “celebrity culture” and reflect the fact that people know the wealthy developer and reality TV star. “They don’t know who Tim Pawlenty is or Haley Barbour,” he added.

That polling means “absolutely nothing” at this stage, said Kasich. “I don’t think Trump’s going to be the Republican nominee for president.”